Shortly after wrapping the 2006 family comedy Unaccompanied Minors, which featured rising Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig in her first film role, the director was invited to a table read for a Judd Apatow-produced female-centric comedy that Wiig had written with her Groundlings comedy troupe cohort Annie Mumolo and was originally called Maid of Honor.
"I just saw this table filled with these really funny women — they weren’t the ones who ended up being in the movie, although ironically Melissa McCarthy was one of the women up there," Feig tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview commemorating today’s 10th anniversary of the film (watch above). "But I just remember going, 'Oh my God, this is such a great opportunity, to cast a lot of really funny women.'"
And then the project just went away. For four years. It wasn't until 2010 that Feig, who had created the Apatow-produced TV cult classic Freaks and Geeks, was called back "out of the blue" to re-engage. He talked to Apatow, he met with Wiig, and it was on.
Released May 12, 2011, Bridesmaids became an instant hit, earning $169 million in the U.S. and $288 million worldwide, on top of rave reviews. It follows the downtrodden, out-of-work pastry chef Annie (Wiig), whose wedding planning rivalry with the more successful Helen (Rose Byrne) threatens to upend the big day for their mutual friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper memorably costar as fellow bridesmaids.
While Bridesmaids is generally considered a contemporary comedy classic, there’s one scene in particular that remains its most (in)famous: a seven-minute sequence in which the ladies experience increasingly volatile bouts of food poisoning during fittings at a swanky dress shop, including McCarthy defecating into a sink, Kemper vomiting on McLendon-Covey's head and Rudolph losing control of her bowels in the middle of a city street while wearing a designer wedding dress.
"We [wanted] to make it outrageous, push the envelope, but never [wanted] to make it where you get bummed out like, 'Oh, the poor actors had to do this terrible stuff,'" says Feig, who was asked by Universal Chairwoman Donna Langley not to make the film "too crude."
The sequence was initially even more outrageous: "We shot a lot of stuff, some stuff we didn’t use. There's one scene in particular after Ellie Kemper runs out of the bathroom after throwing up on Wendi's head where she realizes she has to throw up again and she thinks there's another bathroom at the end of the hallway and runs down, throws open the door to this very white office, which turns out to be ... the woman who owns the dress shop’s office, and projectile vomits across the office onto a picture of her wedding. We immediately went, 'OK, I think that was too much.'"
For as euphoric as the success of Bridesmaids was for those involved, it came with a maddening side effect. Likely because all-female comedy ensembles were so rare at the time, yet ignoring a century of pop-culture history, its cast members were bombarded with questions along the lines of, "Does this movie prove that women can be funny?"
"It was frustrating for all of us," Feig says. "When we were doing press, everybody had to keep answering that question. For these women who are in comedy, it's like being asked some conundrum that doesn't exist. … All they know is fellow funny women and funny men, and there's no question about it. We'd have these press days and these poor women would come back and go, 'Oh my God, I can’t answer that question again, it's so stupid.'"
Beyond its critical and commercial success, Bridesmaids also became the ultra-rare comedy to be recognized by the Academy Awards, earning two nominations — one for Best Original Screenplay and another for Best Supporting Actress for McCarthy, who vaulted to stardom for her revelatory turn as the uncouth and lovable Megan. But no matter where Bridesmaids was nominated that year, 2011's award season had one dominant force that swept up everywhere — the silent black-and-white throwback The Artist, a film that has not been spoken of much since.
"The fact that we got nominated for two Oscars was completely unintentional. We didn't win anything, we lost everything to The Artist, which is a beautiful movie," Feig says. "But if it was between an Oscar for a movie that people watch once and love and then don't go back to, or a movie that people watch over and over and over again, and becomes their comfort food and becomes their thing that cheers them up when they're sad and really means something to them, I think all of us in comedy would rather have that."
Stream Bridesmaids on Amazon.
— Video produced by Kat Vasquez and edited by Luis Saenz
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